Saturday, March 07, 2009

We're Not in Kansas Any More

Three years ago yesterday I arrived in Paris.

I was exhausted from a cyclonic effort to pack up my decades of adult American family life and organize it into storage bins. And downsizing to the the absolute essentials in five overstuffed suitcases to bring to my furnished Paris flat.

My landlady -- soon to become a good friend -- had emailed me photos of the apartment, and said, "Everything's ready for you -- sheets on the bed and a bottle of wine waiting. Do you drink coffee or tea in the morning? Your phone and TV are all set. Can't wait to meet you!"

All I had to do was arrive and collapse. Which I did.

I had a vague notion of where the apartment was, on place de la Madeleine. Despite many previous trips to Paris, I was clueless about the prestige of the location, and was thus comforted by Francophile friends' instant enthusiasm for and approval of such a great address.
Then that day in March I arrived raggedly and blearily from Charles de Gaulle airport, with deep circles under my eyes, lips chapped from a frigid New England winter. I lugged my five suitcases in sequence up the antique wrought-iron elevator, up the stairs to the top floor. And I collapsed on the exquisite fresh sheets.

I was in Paris!
Jet lag mildly abated after a nap, I leaned on the windowsill, soaking in the view from my perch. I was awestruck. I could almost reach out the window and touch the Eglise de la Madeleine. Everything seemed otherworldly from this vantage point. So I ventured down to explore the neighborhood. At the ground floor of the building was a discount textile store called Toto.

I laughed, giddily, helplessly.

But I was in France now. Would anyone understand the joke?


Isabelle said...

Very nice post Polly!

Do you know the French Toto? A silly little boy who does all the stupid things real kids are dying to do... All French kids know "Les blagues de Toto "!
There are even books made out of this character, check out this link:

But of course the Toto I'm talking about has nothing to do with the store that was near your apartment at Madeleine!

isa said...

I got the joke, Polly :-)

You described perfectly those first moments in Paris - exhaustion and exhilaration. (my first place was in the 1st, rue St.Honore, 5th floor, no elevator!)

Bittersweet anniversary for you?

Starman said...


christine said...

Oh you must have enjoyed living in that area. Funny story.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Isabelle, I didn't know about French Toto, except for Toto le hero? Thanks for the link! American Toto is 100% Oz.

Isabella, you nailed it. Bittersweet. And now the exchange rate is exactly where it was 3 years ago. I've always had rotten timing!

SIGH, yes.

And I loved living in that area (only slightly intimidated by Dior at the corner), and then loved switching banks and living in my own apartment on the Left Bank. Both were captivating in their own ways.

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